Continuous Personal Development – Challenge for Employers

Continuous Personal Development - Challenge for Employers

Small Business News – 26th February 2009

Continuous Personal Development - Challenge for EmployersOrganisations are failing to implement the most cost effective Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes for their finance employees, new research reveals.

The research report, called CPD Benchmarking 2008, shows that although the demand for professional development programmes is growing, they are not as widely available as expected, formal external benchmarking of programmes does not take place, and some organisations are still not measuring the benefits the programmes provided.

Jamie Lyon, senior manager of professional development at ACCA and author of the report says:

“Although the level of financial resources being allocated to professional development programmes does not appear to be diminishing, investment returns are likely to suffer unless better practices are adopted. This is made more critical given the context of the economic climate and pressure on organisations’ operating costs.”

Key findings reveal:

  • There is greater devolvement of responsibility for policy setting and interpretation at a local level, reflecting the requirement for policies to be interpreted locally, to be locally adaptable, quick to implement, and relevant to local market requirements
  • Overall professional development policy is co-owned and set through a collaborative approach between HR and Finance though for those specific policies and programmes with high technical content, typically these are owned and delivered by Finance
  • The vast majority of professional development policies for finance professionals cover a wide range of technical and soft skills, reflecting the broad range of skills that accountants need to hold. The nature of training activities and areas in which professional development opportunities are provided is expanding
  • The most common professional development activities are further qualifications, a performance management process, and coaching and mentoring processes
  • Almost half of firms find implementation of CPD policy easy, with a minority of only 14% suggesting it was difficult
  • A broad range of communication channels are being used to disseminate policy, with company intranets and email the most popular mediums.
  • The majority of organisations (60%) have seen an increase in real terms for their budget over the last three years though the impact of the growing economic downturn is not yet fully known
  • The majority of organisations believe their professional development policies to be useful in recruiting and retaining staff
  • CPD programmes for finance professionals provide a good example of HR and Finance collaborating more closely in many organisations – where such collaboration exists, the effectiveness of programmes is typically increased


  • Almost 1 in 5 organisations only offer professional development opportunities to qualified accountants
  • 1/ 3 of organisations continue to restrict their professional development policies to finance staff based at head office only

The findings also reveal 20% of organisations are not recording the effectiveness of training undertaken and less than a third of organisations are benchmarking their policies externally.

Jamie Lyon adds:

“The challenging economic situation will place huge financial pressure on professional development programmes. Organisations need confidence that the money they are spending is adding value and that they are following good practice when establishing such programmes. Lack of career development opportunities are typically cited as the key reason why organisations fail to retain staff – whilst there may be short term imperative for organisations to cut costs and staff, we know that over the longer term, proper investment in people yields longer terms benefits. It’s about targeted spending in the right areas.”

How should organisations continue to develop CPD policies and programmes? Based on the research findings, Tony Osude, Head of Professional Development at the ACCA says:

“There are a number of things organisations should be doing – firstly, they need to properly benchmark their approaches to professional development – how good are their current practices, where could they be improved?

“In the current economic climate, organisations should be sending a clear signal that they are still committed to investment in training and development – many leading organisations are using the downturn to develop new skills in their staff – this seems a very sensible approach, and will help with employee engagement.

Mr Osude concludes:

“There is still more work to do in demonstrating the benefits of investment in training. It’s understandably difficult for senior management to support programmes where measurement of effectiveness is not taking place on a regular basis. In this climate, targeted investments with identifiable bottom line benefits will be key.”

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